USC v Arizona State

Sun Devils present major challenge for Irish (VIDEO)


Brian Kelly met with the local media on Tuesday to discuss Notre Dame’s trip to Tempe this weekend. And the battle with Arizona State certainly has Brian Kelly’s attention.

A season after playing one of their best games in beating Todd Graham‘s squad in AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Kelly knows it’ll take a similar effort to emerge victorious. With quarterback Taylor Kelly finding his rhythm after missing three games with a foot injury, Kelly talked about the scheme offensive coordinator Mike Norvell employs.

“Offensively I think Mike Norvell, one of the best offensive coordinators in the country, does a great job. Great balance on offense. I think that’s one of the things that stands out right away,” Kelly said. “Their ability to run the football sets up their play action pass… Just a very dynamic offense that is multiple. Multiple formations, multiple personnel groupings, play fast. Very dynamic offense, and they have been for the last few years.”

Of course, Kelly has gotten to know the flip side of the football for the Sun Devils as well. After facing off with Graham as Tulsa, Pitt and Arizona State’s head coach, Graham and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson run an attacking, aggressive scheme that isn’t too different than the one the Irish go up against every day at practice.

“Defensively you’re going to get a very similar look that we try to employ. It’s an aggressive scheme, one that is going to try to take away the run but also try to get the ball away from you,” Kelly said.

That scheme has turned around after some high-profile struggles. Against UCLA, the Sun Devils defense melted down, giving up 62 points and 580 yards of offense. But after escaping Southern Cal on a Hail Mary pass to win 38-34, the defense has helped carry the team, giving up just 10, 10 and 16 points to Stanford, Washington and Utah last weekend.

Kelly talked about the changes to the Sun Devil defense, mostly in their ability to eliminate the big plays that killed them.

“There’s eight new players on that defense, so you could see that they’re understanding what they’re doing a lot better and what Coach Graham wants them to do,” Kelly said. “I think when we broke down the film, I think USC had three plays for 256 yards, three plays for 256 yards. I think they’ve eradicated some of those catastrophe type plays out of their defense.”


When it comes to the Irish, the biggest personnel change this week was the move of Nyles Morgan into the starting middle linebacker job. The depth chart now lists Morgan in front of Michael Deeb with Joe Schmidt done for the season after successful ankle surgery this morning.

Kelly was asked how the Irish defense will fare with a youngster in the middle of it, and the head coach was candid, especially when discussing Morgan’s inexperience.

“Look, Nyles has been here 12 weeks. He’s had 12 weeks of coaching, and Coach VanGorder is extremely confident in Nyles’ ability to go in there and play,” Kelly said. “We think we’ve got a guy that can go in there. His traits are pretty clear. He’s extremely athletic. We’ll put him in a position where he can help us win a football game on Saturday.”

Kelly quickly praised the freshman’s ability to dig in and prepare. He also talked about the tough teaching he’s already withstood this season, with VanGorder and Kelly not taking it easy on a young player that this staff believes has sky-high potential.

“We have been so hard on him. I think we said to him about three weeks in, ‘You’re either going to quit or you’re going to be one of the best players that’s ever played here,'” Kelly explained. “We’re hard on him, really hard on him, and he just keeps coming back asking for more. That’s the kind of kid he is.”


Outside of Schmidt’s season-ending injury, just about everybody else got out of the Navy game alive. A season after injuries collapsed the defensive depth chart, it should be all (other) hands on deck, with Jarron Jones, Sheldon Day and James Onwualu back to practice this afternoon.

“Our full medical would be James Onwualu was cleared yesterday through his concussion testing protocol, so he is cleared for practice today,” Kelly said. “Jarron had an ankle sprain which responded well to treatment, so he’ll be full go at practice today. Sheldon Day had a brachial plexus, so he responded well to treatment. He’s strong today, so he’s cleared for practice.”

While I watched a lot of Doogie Howser as a kid, in case you were wondering, “brachial plexus” is the medical term for “stinger,” so Day got out of a nasty collision with Onwualu in about the best condition you could ask for.


A week after emerging as one of the better wide receivers on the field against Florida State, sophomore Will Fuller disappeared on Saturday against Navy. While he scored his ninth touchdown of the season against the Midshipmen, his three catches for just 16 yards didn’t sit well with his head coach.

When Kelly was asked about redshirt freshman receiver Torii Hunter finding more snaps this weekend, Kelly turned the focus to his emerging star receiver.

“Well, if Will Fuller practices the way he did last week, [Torii] will get a lot more playing time, because that’s the way he played,” Kelly quipped.


After playing seemingly every road game with a primetime kickoff, last week ABC announced that kickoff will be in the 3:30 ET time slot, with a local kick scheduled for a relatively early 1:37 p.m.

The news was a surprise not just for fans, but for the Irish coaching staff as well. And while the logistics make for an easier return to South Bend after the football game, it’ll require a slight tweak to the standard away game schedule.

“We were in a routine of playing night games, so I mean, my preference, I’m a coach, so I’m a product of habit. I would have preferred the habit of playing night games,” Kelly said, when asked about his preference.

“Having said that, it will make no difference on the outcome of the game, whether it’s at noon, 1:30, 2:30, 6:30 or midnight. I’m used to getting in that routine for our football team. It might have been a little bit cooler at night. Other than that, no excuses, let’s go play.”

With high temperatures expected to be in the low-to-mid-80s on Saturday, the Irish have already started working with their nutrition team to add additional fluids to their diet.


Lastly, graduate assistant Kyle McCarthy had surgery today as he continues his battle with cancer. Kelly said that surgery was successful.

VIDEO: 30 Seconds to Know: 1st Down Moses


For as much attention as Touchdown Jesus has garnered, it’s only one of the great campus landmarks that’s been re-appropriated for football on Notre Dame’s campus.

No longer known by its official name (the Word of Life Mural) the iconic image on the side of the Hesburgh Library has taken on the flavor of football, likely because of its primetime real estate just beyond the north endzone of Notre Dame Stadium.

But NBC Sports’ Liam McHugh spends 30 seconds getting us up to speed on another treasure in the shadow of the library. And the 16-foot statue of Moses has been renamed 1st Down Moses.

He’s even got a Twitter handle. (Not to mention horns on his head and the disembodied head of his enemy under his foot.) Come to think of it, the 52-year-old statue might just be the toughest guy on campus.


The good, the bad and the ugly: Notre Dame vs. Navy

Everett Golson

For as exasperated as most Notre Dame fans were watching the Irish hang on for dear life (again!) against Navy, the response from the team and their coaches was much different. Facing a healthy Keenan Reynolds and a Navy team that picked themselves up off the mat and fought back after falling behind 28-7, there was no apology given for beating the Midshipmen 49-39 in a wild game Saturday night.

Nor should there have been.

That the Irish ended up in a dog fight after nearly burying the Midshipmen early was disappointing. But after injuries forced Brian VanGorder’s defense to dig deep into their reserves, that the Irish were able to stand strong in the fourth quarter after taking Navy’s best shot is a building block for November.

With Arizona State around the corner — a game with major playoff implications — it’s time to turn the page and forget about Saturday night’s struggle… at least until next year.

But before we can do that, let’s get to the good, bad and ugly of the Irish’s 10-point victory over Navy.



Starting fast. A key to victory for Notre Dame was getting out of the gate quickly. They certainly achieved that, scoring on a 78-yard touchdown pass to C.J. Prosise on the game’s second play and putting up touchdowns on the offense’s first four drives.

The Irish did that thanks to pinpoint passing by Everett Golson, great running by Tarean Folston, and excellent execution on third down. Even the defense played well, with Navy’s first touchdown coming on a pretty blatant push-off and Brian VanGorder’s defense able to force punts on Navy’s next two possessions.

It might have been downhill from here, but if you wanted the Irish to answer the bell, you couldn’t have been disappointed.


Everett Golson. Notre Dame’s quarterback was excellent on Saturday night. He was accurate throwing the football, and more importantly, threw the ball on time and in the rhythm of the offense.  Golson’s three touchown passes and 315 yards were only marred by a late second quarter interception, a throw that was the result of a miscommunication between Golson and Amir Carlisle, and a playcall Brian Kelly took the blame for.

Perhaps the thing I liked best about Golson was his ability to use his feet both to move the chains as well as to buy time in and outside of the pocket. His three rushing touchdowns came on just nine official carries, and while sack yardage took a hit on his totals, he was elusive and productive, especially in the red zone.


Tarean Folston. He was excellent on Saturday. Running for big yardage and making the type of reads and cuts that reward running backs with patience and vision. The Irish sophomore took over the No. 1 job just as Brian Kelly asked him to do, and reminded the staff of this every time they tried to give Cam McDaniel carries.

As I tweeted during the broadcast, everybody is a fan of McDaniel and the work he’s done as a leader both on and off the field. But he’s not even close to as productive of a back as Folston is, and against Arizona State the Irish absolutely need to ride Folston.

After struggling to put Navy away, the Irish turned the keys back over to Folston. He ran intelligently, then broke Navy’s back with a big play sneaking out of the backfield and converting the game-clincher on a 3rd-and-6 catch and run. (The officials marked him out at the 2-yard line. I’d have liked to see the replay.)


Responding Quickly. While we’re going to hammer the Irish for giving up the lead in the third quarter, it’s worth praising them for answering Navy’s lead almost immediately. Golson calmly led the Irish back down the field, converting a nice third down to Ben Koyack and marching down the field quickly. Golson capped the drive off with a much-needed touchdown.

From there, the Irish got a rare punt from Navy, and if you wondered whether Brian Kelly would feel like shortening the game and running some clock, you don’t know Notre Dame’s head coach. A big pass play down the field to Chris Brown hit on first down. And Tarean Folston dashed into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.

Just like that, the Irish were back up 42-31.


The Kids on Defense. No, they didn’t necessarily play all that well. But getting major snaps for guys like Greer Martini and Nyles Morgan is something that’s going to pay dividends in the future, and maybe even before 2015. The Irish defense will need Morgan to be ready for this weekend, with an Arizona State offense likely very happy that Joe Schmidt won’t be able to answer the bell.

But the fact that Martini, Morgan, James Onwualu, Jacob Matuska, Daniel Cage, Andrew Trumbetti, Drue Tranquill and a host of other kids had to play crucial minutes as the Irish were in a flat-spin out to sea (a little Top Gun imagery for the occasion) will be something that helps the program in the long run.

Keenan Reynolds and the Navy offense took advantage of the Irish youth on the field, but it’ll pay off in the future.


The other guys. While it wasn’t Will Fuller‘s best day at the office (he dropped a sure touchdown on a perfect throw by Golson), it was a good day for the complementary guys. Chris Brown had two big catches for 82 yards. Ben Koyack had a touchdown among his five catches for 54 yards. And C.J. Prosise made the game’s first big play, recovered a Navy onside kick, and had another big gainer on a jet sweep. Nice day at the office by the guys behind the guys.

Corey Robinson was quiet after a big game against Florida State. But the Irish passing game got things done from their supporting cast.



Special Teams. With two opportunities to ice the football game, kicker Kyle Brindza snap-hooked one miss and had another blocked. That’s another week with really shoddy execution when push came to shove on the field goal unit.

Perhaps it was out of respect of Ken Niumatalolo’s gambling ways, but when Navy punted, Notre Dame seemed fine with the fair catch. That limited Cody Riggs’ opportunity to get any return yards on his three attempts. But Riggs had another near disaster with ball security, dropping then recovering a muffed punt that could’ve given Navy the ball deep in Irish territory.

Both mistakes — missing field goals and muffing punt returns — are tight-rope acts that will burn the Irish sooner than later. And it’s something that needs to get cleaned up ASAP.


Letting Navy Back Into It. Things looked in perfect control. With just over seven minutes to go in the half, the Irish had Navy in a 2nd and long after Max Redfield made a nice breakup on a pass play.

But from there, the Midshipmen got after the Irish. Navy started to rip off big plays running to the boundary side of the field. That left an offensive tackle blocking a safety, nobody on the pitchman, and a three-man front to give up massive yardage. On two straight plays with a three-man front, Navy responded with gigantic gainers by the pitch man.

Navy used a counter option to get the Irish defense out of position, leading to another big play for a touchdown. Then came Notre Dame’s interception, a score on the first possession of the third quarter, and we had a ball game.

If you’re looking for a recipe on how to let an opponent back in, just pull up this 15 minutes of football whenever you’re wondering.


Injuries.  The loss of Schmidt is a killer. But if the injuries to Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day linger, the middle of the Irish defense could be really suspect at a time where they’re really needed.

We’ll hear more on Tuesday about the health of this football team. But another year and another costly injury loss against Navy.

Situational Defense. Writing RUSH DEFENSE in the bad column is kind of a joke, because it’s a mediocre observation you could make by simply looking at the box score. But if there was something really disappointing about the performance on the defensive side of the ball it was the lack of situational success the Irish had.

For as frustrating as Everett Golson’s interception was, it’s even more ridiculous that it turned into anything more than a missed opportunity. That Navy managed to get a receiver behind the Irish defense when everybody in the stadium knew they were throwing is ridiculous. Kelly mentioned that there was a collision between Drue Tranquill and Greer Martini, but that’s a back-breaking play that just can’t happen.

Also, the Irish were in great position to short-circuit Navy’s first offensive series of the second half when they had the Midshipmen backed up in 3rd-and-9. But once again, the Irish got beat to the short-side of the field on an option pitch play, moving the chains, keeping the drive alive and starting their rally.

Leading 28-24, Navy escaped after being in a 3rd-and-13, too. It turned into a 4th-and-2, and then one play later, Navy had the lead. You’re going to give up some yardage to Navy. That’s going to happen. But you can’t make critical, big-picture mistakes against the Midshipmen.


Sealing the Deal. For as good as Notre Dame’s offense looked early — the Irish had 215 yards in the first quarter — the Irish offense plain stunk when they had a chance to end the game without any more drama than necessary.

The kids on defense put Notre Dame in perfect position to end this game with ten minutes remaining. Already up 42-31, the Irish defense stopped Navy on a 4th-and-3 in their own territory, a huge stand by a group that had been picked on for the entire third quarter.

Well the offense laid an egg from there, with the offensive line unable to open anything up for Tarean Folston on first and second downs, and failed to convert on a 3rd-and-7 screen pass where the Irish really wanted to keep the clock running. Kyle Brindza’s snap hook gave the ball back to Navy with no harm done.

The very next series, Notre Dame’s defense made the play needed, intercepting Keenan Reynolds on an acrobatic play by Justin Utupo and quarterback pressure by Sheldon Day and James Onwualu. And again, the Irish offense stunk it up, this time missing a pass on first down, having McDaniel go for next to nothing on second down and the Irish failed to convert on third down. This time, Brindza’s field goal attempt was blocked after Matt Hegarty was steamrolled up the middle. Navy went down and scored a touchdown and converted the two-point play.

Two key opportunities to score points and end this game. Two critical misses by the Irish.


Quick Hits:

* Niumatalolo certainly has a feel for the dramatic. Last year, he went for the throat on a critical fourth down, calling for a reverse instead of being happy with getting a first down conversion. It burnt him. This year, Navy went for the jugular, with Noah Copeland attempting a throwback pass on 3rd-and-6 that Keenan Reynolds couldn’t reel in. While Jaylon Smith was in coverage, it was a ball that Reynolds probably should’ve had.

That’s two straight years where Navy’s big trick play didn’t connect. And two straight years where Notre Dame’s very happy they didn’t.

(Maybe Cody Riggs felt badly and decided to muff the punt out of pity. Or not.)

* I know Brian Kelly can’t wait to put the Navy files away until next year. But after talking about analytics last week and self-scouting, he and Brian VanGorder are going to want to stay out of three down linemen sets. With rare exception, they were disastrous.

* Time to spend a few plays working on the screen game. It was pretty shoddy after being an effective part of the offensive game plan against Florida State.

(And for those that looked twice at Golson’s throw to Chris Brown that was overturned on video replay after falling short, it was a bad job not just by Golson, but Ronnie Stanley, whose whiff on the block made it hard for Golson to step and throw.)



Wasn’t it all pretty ugly? After looking like a very good ugly through about the first 18 minutes, the Irish let Navy back in the game, a reminder to this young team that a killer instinct isn’t a part-time hobby.

But between the multiple injuries, a number of scares and a game that was competitive way longer than it should’ve been, it was your average, ugly game between Notre Dame and Navy.

For the faint of heart, take this Saturday off next fall and just check in on Sunday.

Schmidt lost for season with ankle injury

Joe Schmidt

Fears of a serious ankle injury were confirmed for Notre Dame linebacker Joe Schmidt. X-Rays taken Sunday revealed a broken ankle and a dislocation, ending the season for the Irish’s leading tackler. Head coach Brian Kelly confirmed the news Sunday.

“He has a fracture and a dislocation of his ankle,” Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference. “He’ll have surgery on Tuesday, so he’ll be out for the year.”

Without Schmidt, Notre Dame will lean on freshman Nyles Morgan at middle linebacker. Thrust into his first significant action on Saturday night against Navy, Morgan flashed the athleticism and playmaking skills that made him one of the most coveted linebackers in the country. He also forced the Irish defense to simplify their scheme, a key factor moving forward.

Kelly talked about the highs and lows from Morgan during an assignment-heavy game that showcased the best and worst of playing a true freshman, confirming some missed assignments by Morgan, including blown coverage on Navy’s successful two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.

“His trait is physical, and that trait shows itself. He made some real big physical plays for us,” Kelly said. “He’s going to be a good player, he’s just a young guy that just needs to continue to grow, and he’s going to get that opportunity because he’s going to be put in that position now.”

Joining Morgan in the two deep is sophomore Michael Deeb. Right now, Greer Martini will continue backing up Jaylon Smith at the Will linebacker, not currently part of the plans that are still very much evolving.

That evolution will need to include a new form of communication from defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to his troops. Without Schmidt to pass along the various assignments, Kelly and his coaching staff are reworking the framework for their defense, a necessity now that the team’s main communicator is lost for the year.

Don’t expect the slack to be picked up by one player.

“I think everybody is going to have to pick up a little bit.  Jaylon is going to have to pick up.  I think the defensive line is going to have to be more assertive in making sure they’re taking care of their end of things.  I think our safeties.  I think everybody is going to have to pick up the slack for the loss of a guy that really did most of the work. He’s a big loss, but I think our guys understand that it’s a next man in, and let’s get ready to roll.”

While giving no timetable on Schmidt’s return to health, Kelly confirmed an obvious decision when he said he expected the senior to be back in 2015, playing as a fifth-year senior.

Five things we learned: Notre Dame 49, Navy 39

Tarean Folston, Parrish Gaines, Daniel Gonzales, George Jamison

It seemed too easy, didn’t it?

Notre Dame’s offense was rolling. The Irish were on pace for 860 yards after the first quarter. Looking unbeatable, Everett Golson was throwing strikes, Tarean Folston was cutting through Navy’s defense and Brian VanGorder’s first attempt at slowing down the Midshipmen’s triple-option attack found enough stops to build a 28-7 lead.

But those that expected the Naval Academy to pack it in and go home were ignoring 88 years of history. And after a quick touchdown drive, a Golson interception and a third-quarter Notre Dame sleepwalk, the Irish were on the ropes and trailing in a game that got out of control in a hurry.

As hopes of style points went out the window, Notre Dame scraped together just enough on both sides of the ball for a 49-39 victory. After a week of Brian Kelly paying tribute to the fight in the Midshipmen, the Irish had to go toe-to-toe down the stretch to find a way to come out alive.

“We knew this was going to be a challenge,” Kelly said after the game. “That’s really all you can ask for is to win a football game and get some guys experience, and then not have to play Navy again until next year.”

It’s tough to say it any better than that. Let’s take a look at the five things we learned.


Everett Golson isn’t back. He really never left. 

For as frustrating as the string of turnovers has been, it’s worth pointing out that for all the flaws we’ve now picked out in Everett Golson’s game, we might be watching the best quarterback at Notre Dame of the modern era.

Think about it. While Brady Quinn and Jimmy Clausen put up some incredible numbers in Charlie Weis’ scheme, they didn’t win games like Golson does. And while Tony Rice won a title and Rick Mirer went No. 2 overall, neither had the diverse skillset that Golson showcases every Saturday.

The scary part? He’s only getting better.

While most will focus on the interception that helped turn the momentum in Navy’s favor, Golson was absolutely dominant tonight, producing six touchdowns for the Irish offense, three through the air and three on the ground. His 18 of 25 for 315 yards including a 78-yard touchdown on his first throw and an eight-yard touchdown scamper to essentially end the game.

Golson has now thrown 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions. His three scores on the ground add to his team leading seven rushing touchdowns. On a night where the offensive line showed cracks in the second half and the team looked frazzled, putting the ball in Golson’s hands was the only ingredient needed for victory.

Losing the 2013 season cost Golson a precious season of on-field development, and the Irish a year where they very easily could’ve been a BCS contender. But after outplaying the defending Heisman Trophy winner (according to his head coach) last week, Golson threw his name back in the ring for the most coveted individual award in sports with a singular performance.


Awards talk earlier in the season proved distracting, even as the quarterback tried to shut it out. But four more games this month will give Golson an opportunity to lead the Irish into the postseason, and write a very impressive chapter in the Notre Dame history books.


End the debate. Tarean Folston should be Notre Dame’s featured running back. 

When Notre Dame’s offense was at its best, Tarean Folston was in the backfield. The sophomore had another impressive night, running for 149 yards on 20 carries to pace the Irish ground game.

When given the opportunity to establish a rhythm, Folston looked silky smooth in the backfield, showing patience as his blocks set up, suddenness going through the hole, and vision you just can’t teach. Add to his efforts the game-sealing 30-yard catch in the fourth quarter and it’s two consecutive games where Folston has made it clear that he’s the team’s best running back.

Now his head coach needs to reward his efforts.

After spending more than half the season trying to mix and match three running backs, Kelly and the offensive staff would be best served to just turn the keys over to Folston. For as wonderfully reliable as Cam McDaniel is, and for as talented and filled with promise Greg Bryant still figures to be, the Irish have a marquee running back in their stable who’s capable of doing it all if only his head coach will let him.

Want to see the Irish offense stuck in neutral? Just look at the running plays where McDaniel got carries. This isn’t 2012, where Kelly was willing to sacrifice some explosiveness for the versatility and toughness of Theo Riddick, who took the majority of carries over Cierre Wood even if Wood put up better stats.

Folston’s the team’s best all-around back. By any measurement possible.

Want to get McDaniel his snaps? Play him in pass protection. After starting the season getting his shot, Bryant’s best days are likely in 2015, with Irish Illustrated reporting that Bryant is also banged up.

If the Irish are going to play balanced offense down the stretch, this is Folston’s job. And give credit to the sophomore for ending a platoon with impressive production.


Notre Dame’s defense got even younger as they traded punches with Navy’s offense and came out alive. 

Make no mistake, the game tape won’t be pretty. But after being battered and bruised by Navy’s triple option, the Irish defense stood its ground and won the fourth quarter, helping Notre Dame escape alive. And they did it behind freshmen like Greer Martini, Nyles Morgan, Drue Tranquill and Andrew Trumbetti.

Combined with big games from James Onwualu, Isaac Rochell, Justin Utupo and Matthias Farley, the Irish defense won the game not on the back of their stars but rather on the shoulders of their lunch-pail performers.

Especially essential was the performance of Martini. The freshman linebacker shifted inside as VanGorder decided to put Jaylon Smith on the perimeter, making nine tackles in basically his debut as a non-special teams contributor, a heady performance by a young player who was — for better or worse — the next man in.

“Greer is a very smart kid and his attention to detail is really good,” Kelly said. “And he’s the only guy we had. We don’t have anybody else.”

Martini was joined by Nyles Morgan on the inside, with the promising Chicagoland product thrust into action after an ankle injury to Joe Schmidt. Morgan showed flashes of the prep All-American who many compared to Manti Te’o, showing a burst and obvious athleticism, not to mention shoulders made of concrete, as he ran sideline to sideline chasing Navy ball carriers creating a few big-time collisions. The next step in Morgan’s game is actually knowing where and who to chase, as a few broken assignments late likely contributed to Navy’s final touchdown and two-point conversion.

With the Irish on the ropes, the Irish defense actually stepped up. In five fourth-quarter possessions, the Midshipmen managed just one touchdown, turned the ball over on downs twice and threw a critical interception. Nobody can look at the stat sheet and see much beauty, but when it was needed it was the defense, not the offense that sealed the deal.


Notre Dame didn’t earn any style points for beating Navy. But there’s no reason to be embarrassed — and Brian Kelly certainly isn’t — after exiting this matchup with a victory. 

Don’t expect the Irish to make a move up next week’s Playoff committee rankings. And don’t expect Brian Kelly to care.

He’ll be too worried about an Arizona State team that will likely move up in the polls after winning in overtime over Utah. But if you’re expecting Kelly and company to apologize for struggling to put away a Navy team that fell to 4-5, don’t count on it.

“I challenge anybody to put these guys on their schedule, anybody who thinks Navy is an easy team to play,” Kelly said after the game. “It’s very, very difficult. I’ve got some smart defensive coaches back there. Bobby Elliott, one of the better defensive coordinators in the country in the eighties and nineties. He’s forgot more football than I know.

“Brian VanGorder’s an accomplished defensive coordinator at the NFL and college level. Mike Elston’s been with me for a long time. These are really good coaches. It’s hard to defend what they do at Navy and my hat goes off to Navy and their coaching staff, they do a great job on offense and once again they do a great job.”

That just about every Navy-Notre Dame game feels like the same scary movie played over again isn’t really the point of it all. That’s the great equalizer called the option. Knowing that it’s coming isn’t the hard part. Stopping it is.

So while most of us will look at the blown leverage by Notre Dame’s safeties or struggling to shutdown some plays to the boundary side of the field, the Irish coaching staff will gladly pull the Navy tape and their prep into storage, kicking this mess down the street when there’s more time to evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Looking for something to correct? How about the Irish’s two series that started in plus territory, with the offense unable to even get a field goal that could’ve secured the victory. But all that comes after celebrating a hard-fought victory in the most thankless game of the season.


A serious injury to Joe Schmidt could drastically change the complexion of Notre Dame’s defense. 

If someone told you this spring that an injury to former walk-on Joe Schmidt could be the scariest news of early November, you’d likely think they had spent too much time in the comments section below. But seeing Schmidt in a walking boot and on crutches with a still undetermined ankle injury is a scary scenario for this Irish defense.

That’s not to say Nyles Morgan didn’t look impressive. But after serving as the nerve center of the Irish defense, Notre Dame’s losing more than its leading tackler, they could be playing without their rosetta stone, the critical translator of Brian VanGorder’s scheme-heavy approach.

Kelly said Schmidt will have an X-Ray once he returns to South Bend. But after doing his best to tape up his ankle and return to the game, this could very well be an injury that takes Schmidt out of the Irish game plan for a few games, hardly the type of news you want heading into a critical weekend.

“We don’t know the circumstances of Joe, but we’re praying he’s all right,” Jaylon Smith said after the game.

We saw what the reinforcements look like. Throw Greer Martini into the mix as well, with the linebacker likely better suited for coverage duties than Morgan.

But after seeing James Onwualu play his best football of the year (and then suffer what looks like a concussion late in the game after a nasty collision with Sheldon Day) and Matthias Farley serve as the closer, it’ll be all hands on deck next weekend in Tempe.